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On July 30, 2218, the FBI offices in Virginia Beach received the following e-mail:

“Greetings, federal scum. This is Tarantula of The Accelerationists. I have in my possession a nuclear warhead which I have smuggled into the city of Virginia Beach. It is rigged to blow in one hour. I want you to assemble the best members of your organization and meet me at Warehouse 11. Do not try warning the populace. If I hear any panic, the bomb goes off. This is a secret test of character. I want to see if you can pass it.”

Mixie Milton’s face turned red when she read it. She was aware that a nuclear warhead was stolen from a silo in Colorado a week ago. Now it was in her city. The systemic incompetence of the United Earth Government was nothing new to her, but this was too much. She ran out of her office and told everyone in the building about the e-mail she had received. Normally, the agents were slow to respond, but after she informed them that the suspect in question was a bigot, they immediately sprung into action, hopped in their cars, and sped off.

For the past twenty years, Mixie was the director of the Virginia Beach branch of the FBI. Her black hair was cut so short that she almost looked like a man. Normally, a white person like her would not be given such a high position, but she managed to get the job by claiming to be non-binary. For all that time, she tried to improve the organization, but it was like pulling teeth. The bloated bureaucracy was the least of her problems. She had to do her job while also adhering to the UEG’s fundamental values of Diversity, Inclusion, and Equality. She believed in those values more zealously than most, but adhering to them was a major challenge and made everything more difficult. Whenever she did something that made even one person uncomfortable, she got reprimanded for it. The anxiety of constantly walking on eggshells left her with dark circles under her eyes. She knew the director before her eventually hung herself after the stress became too much to bear. She didn’t want to end up like that, but she also knew she needed to do her job, no matter how arbitrarily difficult it was. It was her personal rock that she needed to constantly roll uphill.

Their black cruisers rushed down the pothole-filled roads, past row upon row of apartment complexes in varying states of decay, past the broken streetlights and stop signs full of bullet holes. In just five minutes, they reached their destination. The walls of the warehouse were red with rust. Various pieces of trash clung to the chain link fence. Tall weeds grew from the cracks in the pavement. Ants, beetles, and other insects made their home in those cracks as well. Mixie ordered half her team to secure the outside while she and the remainder went into the warehouse. The interior was a dimly lit crate maze. She felt it was full of traps and navigated it cautiously but quickly. The air was filled with the stench of burnt metal and old dried oil. Specks of dust floated around in the sterile light that came down from the few functioning fluorescent fixtures that dangled from the ceiling. Spiders crept along the concrete floor. They made their way to the center, and there they found Tarantula, his arms crossed, a grin on his face. His gray hair reached down to his shoulders, and his bushy beard was of the same color. Behind him was the cone-shaped nuclear warhead. A monitor and keyboard were mounted on the front of it. 45 minutes were left on the clock. Plenty of time, the agents thought.

“Sergei Laski,” Mixie shouted, “we have you surrounded. Put your hands up.”

Tarantula kept grinning as he put his hands in the air. He did not care if they knew his real name. “Hello, director.” His voice had a Russian accent. “How nice of you to show up in such a timely manner.”

Two agents approached and cuffed him. He looked around and laughed. “You call this your best? Amorphous genderblobs and mystery meat mutts?”

Mixie kept her gun pointed at his head as she walked towards him. “Cut the bigoted crap, Sergei. We’re gonna haul this nuke to a safe distance and you’ll be put to death for your crimes.”

Sergei raised an eyebrow. “I wouldn’t do that if I were you.”

Several of the crates opened, revealing men with bundles of TNT strapped to their chests. Their eyes were wide and crazed grins were frozen on their faces. Mixie’s brow wrinkled. She muttered under her breath, “How long have they been hiding in there?”

“I have plenty more waiting outside,” Sergei said.

The director looked to the side and touched her earpiece. “Status report.”

The agent on the other end told her that a large group of men with TNT strapped to their chests had emerged from nearby abandoned warehouses and had them surrounded. Her hands trembled slightly.

“Now then,” Tarantula asked, “shall we test your character?”

Mixie scowled. She walked up to the terminal mounted on the nuke and turned to him. “Tell us how to disarm this thing.”

“It’s very easy,” he replied. “All you have to do is type in the N-word.”

All the agents looked at each other in awkward silence. Some had their mouths agape as if he had spoken some horrific blasphemy. The female agents were on the verge of tears.

“There has to be some other way,” the director said.

“No,” was his terse response.

“We’ll open the panel and disarm it from there.”

“Open the panel and the bomb will explode.”

“Then we’ll hack the computer.”

“If the electronics are tampered with in any way, the nuke will go off.”

“We have EMPs. Those will disable it.”

“It’s shielded against all EMP attacks.”

She breathed deeply through her nostrils and frowned. She looked down and whispered to herself, “Damn it, he though of everything.”

“What’s wrong?” he asked. “It’s just a word.”

Her frown changed back into a scowl. “It’s not just a word, you moron. It has a long history of facilitating hatred, discrimination, and bigotry. I will not be complicit in that.”

He leaned his head slightly forward. “If you don’t type it in, then you will be complicit in the destruction of an entire city.”

“But if I type it in, then I’ll be branded as a bigot. I can’t have that.”

“But isn’t it better to be a bigot who saves the day than a coward who gets everyone killed? Is a word truly so taboo that it cannot be spoken under any circumstance, even when thousands of lives are at stake?”

Mixie straightened her posture and clenched her fists. She turned back to the monitor, stared at the blinking command prompt, and grimaced. The red text on the black background made her heart palpitate. Her hand trembled as it approached the letter N. Sweat formed on her brow and her stomach twisted and turned. Just as her finger was about to press the key down, she pulled her hand away, spun around, and looked down at the dusty concrete floor.

“Are you really going to just turn your back on the city like that?” he asked. “Are you really content with being so negligent?”

Her faced turned bright red. She pulled out her gun again and pointed it at his head. “I ought to kill you for using such a horrible word as part of some sick game.”

Tarantula chuckled.

An obese black agent stepped forward. “Wait, hol’ up. I speak on behalf a da black community when I say dat I don’ care if ya use dat word if it means disarming dat bomb. Getting called dat word is nuttin’ compared to gettin’ vaporized.”

The other agents howled their disapproval. Some called him an Uncle Tom. Others accused him of having internalized racism. The fat black man lowered his head in shame and backed away. Sergei glanced at him, turned back to Mixie, and raised his eyebrows cheekily. The director wrinkled her nose and shook her head. She turned to her subordinates. “Come on. There has to be something we can do. Any ideas? Anyone?”

A scrawny woman with a blonde pixie cut approached Sergei. “Do you realize the magnitude of what you’re about to do? There are families living in this city, families that have done nothing wrong to you. If that nuke goes off, then those innocent people will be wiped out and you will be known as a slaughterer of children. Do you really want history to remember you like that?”

“I have already spent a long time thinking about that,” he replied. “Do you know why I brought this nuke to Virginia Beach? It’s because this place has the highest concentration of federal employees. They are the UEG’s most loyal servants. They are the ones who carry out its evil edicts. Their children are taught to hate the holy and worship the wicked, and when they grow up, they will become just like their parents. Anyone who willingly supports this Satanic regime cannot be called innocent. None of you are free of sin. This whole wretched city will be cleansed in nuclear fire and God will sort you out.”

Her face flushed and her lips curled down into a disgusted frown. She crossed her arms and spat out, “Then I hope you enjoy being remembered as history’s greatest monster.”

He scoffed. “Your condemnation means nothing. I’ve seen what you praise.”

With a huff, she walked back to her position. The agents looked around in silence as the timer ticked down. One of them lifted up his arm towards the keyboard, but put it back down again after his teammates gave him dirty looks. Sergei’s men were still grinning ear to ear, their hands still gripping their detonators.

A message came through Mixie’s earpiece. “Status report?”

She was motionless for a moment, then she replied, “Disarming this thing is proving to be more difficult than we anticipated. Just hold your position. We’ll handle this.”

Sergei smiled smugly. “You want to know how I managed to steal this nuke?”

Mixie was in no position to deny his request, so she replied, “How?”

“My men and I pretended to be federal agents. We walked into the silo, separated the warhead from its missile, then walked right back out. We expected a much greater challenge, so we had a good laugh about it afterward.”

She looked at him with disbelief. She didn’t know who to be angrier towards: Sergei for stealing a nuke or the United Earth Government for being incompetent.

Knowing he had a captive audience, he continued. “You want to know how I became a master thief? It all began in my hometown of Tula. Like so many others around the world, my family was too poor to do anything other than exist, and like so many others, we existed solely to benefit those at the very top. We were desperate and I wasn’t about to sell myself on the streets, so I learned to steal. I started off small. I stole candy and snacks from my classmates and they were none the wiser. I grew bold and started stealing from the teachers. Too bold, because I eventually got caught and spent some time in juvie. It was there I learned how to be a better thief. Once I got out, I started skipping school in favor of stealing from the homes of the rich. I learned the fine details of home security and how to evade detection. I became like a sneaky spider. That was how I earned the nickname Tarantula. I recruited foster kids and taught them my skills. By the time I was 20, I had formed my own merry band of thieves. We began making really big bucks by stealing from corporations. Whenever some of us got caught, the other members would post our bail and we would skip town. We traveled all across Asia and stole from every elite home and office building. We then made our way to America, and the riches we found in this land far surpassed everything we had encountered previously. In 2214, my entire gang and I got arrested after unknowingly walking into a trap set up by competent people. We thought we were done for, but then we were bailed out by a mysterious benefactor, who then introduced us to Black Sun.”

“You mean George Azovsky?” Mixie asked. Her frown and twitching eyebrows expressed anxiety and annoyance.

Sergei knew the United Earth Government kept detailed profiles of every person on the planet. He knew they controlled the internet, read everyone’s e-mails, and recorded all communications. He could not help but smirk. “Yes, that’s him. After I thanked him for his generosity, he told me about all the wicked and depraved things the elites were up to: their Satanic rituals, their sexual abuse of children, their blood sacrifices. I originally stole from the rich to help myself and those around me, but now I had a higher calling. I wanted to use my skills to bring down this whole rotten system. Black Sun recruited a few others from diverse backgrounds, and one month later, he formed The Accelerationists. I stole vital resources from the government and corporations, which aided our successive operations. I then came up with the idea of stealing a nuke. The others were skeptical, but they quickly changed their tune after I pulled off that heist. Benji installed the terminal and programmed the timer. My men and I brought it into this warehouse and this is where we are now.”

He looked over at the timer and saw there were 10 minutes left. “Time flies when you’re having fun. You still have a chance to type in that word.”

Mixie crossed her arms. “We already went over this. We’re not going to validate your bigotry. By the way, you do realize that you and your men will die if the bomb goes off, right? Do you care that little about your own lives?”

He smiled and slowly nodded. “Yes, I’m fully aware. But what you fail to realize is that these men have had everything taken from them by this evil regime. They have nothing to lose, and the only thing more dangerous than a man with nothing to lose is an army of men who have nothing to lose. They will gladly die if it means bringing down the United Earth Government.”

His men nodded in maniacal agreement. Silence fell over the warehouse once again. The agents grew increasingly anxious as the timer ticked down. Mixie received another call. “What’s taking so long?”

She let out a frustrated sigh. “We’re working on it, okay?”

“We’re running out of time.”

She began gesticulating frantically. “I know, I know, but we’re so close. We’ll have it defused soon. Trust me, okay?”

She looked at the terminal. 3 minutes left. Her arm trembled as she tried to lift it up. Her instincts were screaming at her to save her own life, but her adherence to Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity silenced them.

2 minutes left. She turned to Sergei. He still had that smug smirk on his face. Her face turned red. She clenched her fists and gritted her teeth. That man mocked her beliefs and saw the prospect of nuking an entire city as nothing more than a sick joke, and she could not take it anymore. She screamed and pounced on him, knocked him to the ground, and began punching him in the face. Again and again she pounded her fists against his cheeks and nose, then paused to catch her breath.

He laughed at her weak and pathetic blows. “This was the option you chose? You are so disappointing.”

“Shut up!” she screamed.

1 minute left. One of the agents panicked and ran for the terminal. Mixie sprung to her feet and tackled him.

“What are you doing!?” the young agent asked.

“We can’t let that bigot win!” Mixie’s eyes were wide open and her voice was crazed.

“But we’ll all die!”

“This is bigger than all of us! This is about equality! We can’t let him undermine it!”

Sergei laughed maniacally. Everyone in the warehouse looked upon him, then he proclaimed, “The only equality you will find is in death!”




The warhead exploded. Virginia Beach was consumed in nuclear fire. The soft bodies of all one million of its citizens were vaporized and all the buildings were reduced to ashes.


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